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Good fortune piled on good luck...
on 18 January 2011
You know what you get with John Scalzi - a competently written story that is purely plot-driven. He isn't a fancy writer, in fact I think in the whole of the book there are only a handful of purely descriptive passages. By the end you'll have a unique opinion of what the main characters look like because very little is on the page. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
Where Scalzi is strong is in his grasp of technology, which he slots into the story with an assured hand, and his dialogue which is snappy and charmingly retro.
But when the technology is pulled out of a hat at just the right moment to handle a specific situation, which is glaringly convenient in the first place, it takes the lustre off.
And the dialogue that served as a background to the first two books in the trilogy now makes up the bulk of the novel. There is an awful lot of extended discussion going on and unfortunately a lot of it sounds like the same character arguing with himself. Only the clearly alien Obin has a distinctive voice, though even that voice is just a cagier version of the "regular" speech. Even the main "alien" characters all sound like humans from the fifties. Scalzi isn't even THAT old.
Literally, several times during the novel, a group of characters will discuss some point or other, arguing themselves in circles all using similar idiom and all behaving rationally and even-tempered. Mostly.
All except Jane the female protagonist and wife to the narrator. She gets to be the savage, rage barely-contained character whose handling of the situation we'd probably rather be reading if she was given her wishes, while her old fogey (admittedly in a spanking new body) husband fumes about the indignities being heaped on him.
Couple this with some frankly baffling paragraphs of exposition and several incidents of action taking part off-stage, along with the complete abandonment of a sub-plot half-way through and you have to wonder if Scalzi was giving this work his full attention.
Did I enjoy it? It was okay. It's an easy read with some nice ideas, and I certainly don't regret seeing how the story ended. But after two books full of gene-manipulated super-soldiers battling aliens in harsh environments, I kinda would've liked to see the story capped in similar fashion.